Florida spends big on biotech
Two new deals show the state is in a league of its own when it comes to subsidies
Florida is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into luring biotech institutions with public subsidies, easily outpacing its rivals. In the latest phase of its biotech buying spree, the state has announced
that the Burnham Institute for Medical Research
of La Jolla, California, will be expanding to a new Orlando campus with the help of $310 million worth of state and local incentives, while the Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies
, also based in La Jolla, will open a facility in Port St. Lucie in return for $80 million worth of state and local incentives.
A leading proponent in the Florida legislature, Sen. Mike Fasano
, R-New Port Richey, believes publicly financed incentives are a good use of the state's budget surplus and a necessary investment. "There is an enormous amount of competition with other states," he told The Scientist
. "Florida will see a huge return on that amount of money over the next 10 to 20 years."
However, some observers caution that it will take more than wooing individual institutions to turn the state into a biotech hub. "There's this sort of naïve belief on the part of some folks in Florida that if you get a research institute from San Diego to set up a campus in your community, you'll generate another San Diego," industry analyst Joe Cortright
told The Scientist
In a report
for the Brookings Institution, Cortright pointed out that while basic biotech research is done in many places, commercialization is highly concentrated in a handful of cities, including San Francisco, Boston and San Diego. By contrast, Orlando and Port St. Lucie have almost no biotech infrastructure.
Still, with the new deals, Florida has now reeled in three California biotech powerhouses. In 2003, the Scripps Research Institute
announced it would build a new facility
in Palm Beach County and reap some $500 million in incentives, including state and federal funds.
California is preparing to dole out some $3 billion dollars worth of stem cell research grants
to academic institutions and biotech companies, but unlike the Florida incentives, the money is not intended to bankroll new facilities or subsidize moves by out-of-state companies.
"It's not at all clear that there's a bidding war going on, unless it's Florida bidding against itself," Cortright said.
, a real estate consultant who has worked with Florida counties on aspects of the Scripps and Burnham development proposals, agrees that while other states have some incentives in place for biotech institutions, the deals are nothing like what Florida offers.
"These are pretty unique instances. There's not that many institutions like these that you are going to be seeing wooed in other directions. I think it was just an aggressive effort on Florida's part," Ardigo told The Scientist
She added, however, that Florida will need to follow through with the development of new medical schools and attract companies that commercialize biotech discoveries in order to reap the full benefits of the incentive deals given to Burnham, Scripps and Torrey Pines.
Burnham Institute spokesperson Nancy J. Beddingfield acknowledges that the financial incentives were a major pull toward Florida. "Close to a third of a billion dollars -- $310 million -- it's hard not to accept that," she told The Scientist
. But she stressed that other factors were also at play, including the state's commitment to build a new medical school
adjacent to the Burnham Institute facility and a strong overall commitment to higher education.
The deal requires Burnham to create at least 300 high-paying jobs at the facility to be built near the Orlando airport. The institute has about 750 employees in California. Its $90 million annual budget consists almost entirely of competitive grants won by researchers.
Links within this article
Governor Bush Welcomes Burnham Institute to Florida
The Burnham Institute for Medical Research
The Torrey Pines Institute for Molecular Studies
Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey,
Signs of Life: The Growth of Biotechnology Centers in the U.S.
Scripps Research Institute
Charles Q. Choi, "Scripps on the Atlantic," The Scientist
, October 14, 2003.
Ivan Oransky, "California OKs stem cell measure," The Scientist
, November 3, 2004.
State Board Of Governors Approves UCF Med School